The Vatican is reportedly investigating how $200 million funds that it had parked in Swiss bank accounts eventually ended up financing a luxury property development in London’s upscale Chelsea district and in the process generating windfall profits for a company that managed the investment for the Holy See, Financial Times reported.
The sum of $200m held in Swiss bank accounts was controlled by the Secretariat of State and was transferred to a Luxembourg investment fund called Athena Capital. The funds were channeled towards a project to construct 49 luxury apartments at 60 Sloane Avenue. The Vatican is said to be engaged in the project since 2014.
The Secretariat of State serves as the central papal governing bureaucracy of the Catholic Church. It is responsible for tall the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See. It manages the millions of dollars in charity given by Catholics around the world
As a part of an investigation of suspected financial irregularities, Vatican police this month raided the offices of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State and its Financial Information Authority, or AIF and took away documents and electronic devices. The two departments were searched for evidence involving alleged financial crimes.
The Vatican itself had announced that raids were prompted by complaints lodged in the summer by the Vatican’s bank and auditor-general about “financial operations carried out over the course of time”.
Five Vatican employees, including a top official at the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF) and a monsignor, were also suspended following the police raid
The AIF, headed by Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, is the financial controller, with authority over all Vatican departments.
According to the FT report, Holy See’s investment with Athena Capital was personally authorised by Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who is said to have met the London-based financier inside the Vatican. Cardinal Becciu was at the time in charge of the administrative duties of the Secretary of State, and reported on a daily basis to Pope.
Vatican Bank, better known as the Institute for Works of Religion, or IOR, was for decades embroiled in numerous financial scandals.